She grew up shy but later bloomed, first as a high school and St. Cloud State University graduate, and then as a teacher's aide sharpening her own Spanish-language skills in Granada, Nicaragua.
This summer, Sara Rose Deckert, 28, of Buffalo, was back home with her mother, excited to find a job and to settle in on a career, her father, Don Deckert, said.
Early Sunday, Sara Deckert was dead. The State Patrol identified her on Monday as the motorist whose vehicle was struck by that of a suspected drunken driver who was fleeing authorities on County Road 81 in Maple Grove.
At the time of the crash, about 1:15 a.m. Sunday, Deckert was headed home after helping a friend pack for the friend's move to Florida, Don Deckert said.
"She was always helping people," he added. "That's what she did."
Also dead at the scene was the suspected drunken driver, Jeramiah Wall, 34, of Albertville. He had a history that included arrests for drug possession, driving while intoxicated and criminal vehicular homicide/injury.
According to the patrol, Wall fled a traffic stop and crashed into Deckert's vehicle after running a red light. A Hennepin County sheriff's deputy was in pursuit, but "not in close proximity" when the accident occurred at 93rd Avenue N., the patrol said.
Don Deckert learned of his daughter's death while camping with friends Sunday on the North Shore. He had left the campsite to take photographs, he said, and returned to discover there had been an emergency: "We had to pack up and rush home," he said.
His daughter loved camping and canoeing, and rock music, too, he said. Together, they went to a Minneapolis show by the Smashing Pumpkins, her favorite band.
"Her entire wardrobe consisted of Smashing Pumpkins T-shirts," Don Deckert recalled.
Last Dec. 28, her golden birthday -- her stepmother Beverly Deckert noted Monday -- Sara Deckert left for Nicaragua. Her father said she was determined to "learn to speak Spanish exactly as it's done there." Initially worried about the living conditions, she was relieved to learn her hosts had "flush toilets and electricity," Don Deckert said.
He had no idea how she learned of the opportunity but, then, he said, she had a knack for making things happen. The girl who once was "very timid" now was remarkably independent, he said. She had worked her way through college and took advantage of a couple of inheritances to finance her Nicaraguan experience.
"She was a pretty smart girl," the father said of his daughter Monday. "She certainly didn't deserve to die this way."
Anthony Lonetree • 612-673-4109